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Gin Show – plenty of big wheels, puppy giveaways and optimism

Based on another truly weird spring, I really don’t know quite what to expect from Mother Nature this year. Just as the daffodils started poking through the matted hillsides, producers were starting to fly nitrogen on wheat and some corn planting had begun in the southern reaches of the Mid-South, here comes a series of ice storms, snarling traffic and snapping power lines, closing schools and shutting down businesses.

The biggest question in front of those on their way to the Mid-South Farm and Gin in late February and early March was, “What should I take to Memphis, sunscreen or a ski cap?

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The sun’s out one minute, covered in clouds or fog the next. It rains, it snows, it’s sunny and warm, then it rains and snows again. On the weekend of the gin show in this city along the Mississippi River, a sunny, 71 degree, short-sleeve Saturday turned into a 15-degree bone chiller in a span of 24 hours.

Luckily, the two day extravaganza ended late Saturday afternoon, 24 hours before temperatures crashed and the aforementioned ice storm struck.

As usual, the gin show was spectacular. Wide-eyed kids, pumped up on big tires and root beer, scrambled up and down combines, sprayers and cotton pickers, imagining the day when they’d rumble through their own fields with the biggest toy on the block.

By the end of the day, they could barely keep their eyes open, but they couldn’t quit. So much cotton candy. So many puppy giveaways. So little time.

Perhaps some of their enthusiasm came from their parents. Farmers I talked to at the gin show were mostly happy with last year’s crops and cautiously optimistic about what was coming – including many who were thinking about planting more cotton. On Friday morning, Joe Nicosia of Louis Dreyfus Commodities told them that his economists had penciled in a better profit for cotton than for corn and soybeans.

But that was before Vladimir Putin and his Russian buddies invaded Ukraine. Corn prices shot up on the news because Ukraine is expected to be the sixth largest exporter of corn this year and the third largest exporter of wheat. Who might fill the gap? U.S. producers of course.

But on Saturday morning, grain analyst Richard Brock warned producers that the higher corn prices get as we near planting of the 2014 crop, the lower they will go this fall, especially if U.S. producers pull off another bin buster.

But let’s save those worries for another day. The sun is out. Temperatures are rising. Producers are getting engines revved up and planters ready. In a month or so, hopefully, we’ll have vanquished the vortex of Arctic air for 2014, and green shoots will be sprouting through the dirt.

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